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Self-Editing and Revising Your Fiction 
 
by S. D. Farrell May 31, 2005

Keep copies of your revisions. Save each revision in a separate file, and dedicate a given portion of time – three days, say, or a week – to each revision. Work on one specific problem or detail in each revision: for example, strengthen your dialogue, or look for ways to make your key plot elements stronger, or add scenes, or cut them. Do not try to undertake all these takes in the same day or on the same file. Limiting yourself in this way keeps the job of revision from being overwhelming, and removes one of the major fears writers have about the process: that something they revise will "break" something else in the story, or shatter the whole work. This way, if you really feel that a revision went poorly, you can backtrack and no harm is done.

Don't do too much too soon. After your first draft is finished, I recommend putting it aside for at least two days, if it's a shorter work, or a week, if it's longer. Much of what constitutes good writing is an instinctive process; trying to make all kinds of changes after you've just finished doesn't give your mind enough time to adjust and encompass everything you've just created. After some time has passed, not only are you more likely to be precise in your revisions, but you have a more objective view of your work: it isn't the best, or the worst, thing you've ever seen.

Writing is much like sculpting, where you begin with a block of marble and each movement, each successive step, is a careful unveiling of the masterpiece that lies beneath. All writers, if they keep writing long enough, will learn the lessons that I've listed in this article, and all writers have the potential to develop instincts key to their craft. However, if you keep my advice in mind, you will find it much easier to discover the masterpiece that is your work. Write every day, work toward reasonable goals, and never give up, and you'll soon find the vision and work ethic that dreams are made of in the fiction industry.

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